Retail therapy: NAIT students bring cherished store back to Glenrose

Business model ecompasses convenience, health care and community

One patient in particular stands out in Yasmin Lavoie-Khatib’s memory.

On Jan. 18, he visited the store at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital. Lavoie-Khatib was part of a group of JR Shaw School of Business students who’d stocked and staffed the shop as a one-day pop-up, the first time it was open since being shuttered during the pandemic.

The patient struggled to simply open his wallet, hindered by the injury or condition that had brought him to the Edmonton facility for treatment.

A month later, on Valentine’s Day, things had changed. Lavoie-Khatib (Management ’20) was back for the shop’s second of three pop-ups, a series she was managing as her capstone project. The patient was back, too. This time, however, he opened his wallet much more easily; he was making progress.

“That has been so motivating, seeing those stories in real time,” says Lavoie-Khatib, now finishing her Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing.

nait students staff the pop up store at the glenrose rehabilitation hospital

That’s part of what drew her to this project last September, answering a call hospital management made to NAIT for help.

Members of Lavoie-Khatib’s own family have benefited from therapy at the Glenrose. The store isn’t big. It sells drinks, snacks, personal care items and locally made gifts. But because it’s central to a place dedicated to helping people regain their health, it holds the promise of a deeper impact for patients, their families, hospital staff and more.

“I knew how much the store meant to people,” says Lavoie-Khatib. She understood the loss when it closed and the relief when it was revived – with plans by a student group called Enactus to take it over, opening it daily.

“This is providing that comfort and convenience,” she says, “and giving back to the community.”

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“You felt the energy in the building”

nait students yasmin lavoie-khatib and mariam arain at the popup store at the glenrose rehabilitation hospital

Jolene Ellis and Sherri Wright’s skill sets don’t include retail. They manage a variety of rehabilitative programs at the Glenrose. But they knew something had to happen with their vacant shop.

For years, the store was run by a volunteer group, but pandemic restrictions caused them to disband and abandon it. “When it closed, it was very sad,” says Ellis.

That sadness was reflected in a survey answered by patients, family, volunteers, staff and visitors. “It was loud and clear that they wanted [the store] back,” says Wright.

She and Ellis did, too. The Glenrose cafeteria closes at 1 p.m. The resulting gap eliminated not just an afternoon coffee but opportunities for patient assessment.

"This really put all my knowledge from NAIT and my instructors into practise.”

The store, says Ellis, “was also a rehab space.” Like the man with the wallet, patients could be given instructions, for example, to make their way to the store through the hospital’s labyrinthine network of halls, purchase specific items, and return with change.

NAIT was a logical choice to help the Glenrose reinstate that function. In the past, the institutions have teamed up on several novel therapy technologies, including physical rehab devices and virtual reality games. A business collaboration represented a new but welcome direction.

Once students took on the project (under the guidance of capstone instructor and Enactus adviser Keven McGhan (Finance ’89)), Ellis and Wright gave them plenty of opportunity to innovate – in the form of completely empty shelves.

“This really put all my knowledge from NAIT and my instructors into practise,” says Lavoie-Khatib.

Starting in September 2023, she and assistant project manager and fellow Marketing student Mariam Arain researched business models. They arrived on one featuring limited inventory, thus lower costs, that would also provide reason to reach out to the community.

Searching for sellers

in her words book store owners

Are you a vendor interested in selling products at the Glenrose store? Send an email to

As a result, each pop-up has involved selecting local vendors “based on the needs of the Glenrose,” says Lavoie-Khatib. They set up tables adjacent to the store, selling everything from books to crocheted flowers, creating a market atmosphere.

“You felt the energy in the building,” says Wright. It uplifted staff, visitors and, perhaps most importantly, those who called the Glenrose their temporary home, sometimes for weeks at a time.

“The hard work and effort did pay off, and brought something more meaningful than we expected,” says Arain. “Just seeing the faces of patients makes your day.”

Progress takes many forms

window at the glenrose rehabilitation hospital store

What began as a capstone project that brought in $10,000 in revenue is now an ongoing social enterprise managed by the NAIT chapter of Enactus, a global student entrepreneurship organization. The group plans to open the store daily by the end of May.

A JR Shaw School of Business co-op student will manage it, funded by the Glenrose and Mitacs, a project and innovation accelerator. Ultimately, “this is going to be a successful revenue-generating business,” says Enactus president and Marketing student Calyca Greenwald (Marketing ’22, Veterinary Medical Assistant ’13).

“It's just really inspiring, watching this grow,” she adds. “It's so cool to see how these students just took this idea and [opened] a store.”

Greenwald also gives credit to Ellis and Wright for their support and guidance, and to the community vendors (who pay a small fee to sell at the Glenrose). Without them, “it wouldn't be as exciting as it is.”

Among those selling at the March event was Kareena Virdi, co-owner of In Her Words bookshop, dedicated to amplifying the voices of women writers. “We are very thankful to be included in these opportunities,” says Virdi, a third-year Marketing student.

“It's just really inspiring, watching this grow.”

That gratitude extends from the opportunity to develop her business, which operates exclusively online and as a pop-up at events. But it’s also related to the community contribution. Between making sales, she and her business partner watched customers come and go from the shop.

“It really is important that the store get [on] its feet, because it is changing lives,” says Virdi. “It does definitely increase happiness among the patients and staff members.”

That’s why Lavoie-Khatib is happy to stay on.

She’s graduating this year but pleased to keep her volunteer role as the shop's project manager as she begins exploring the career options. There’s more progress to be made, whether it’s the growth of the store, showcasing local vendors, or incremental improvements in patients as they work at being customers.

“This is special to me,” says Lavoie-Khatib. “I want to continue to be part of that impact.”

Retail recognition

portrait of nait students yasmin lavoie-khatib and mariam arain in frame that says glenrose across the top

The Glenrose store project was recognized in Calgary on March 15 as second runner-up at the Enactus Canada Regional Exposition – Western Canada. The annual event showcases the entrepreneurial community outreach work by students from across the region.

“That was a crowning moment, seeing our work recognized like that,” says student Yasmin Lavoie-Khatib, project manager for the store.

“I cried a little,” says NAIT Enactus club president Calyca Greenwald. “I’m not going to lie.”

The group will try their luck again with the project at the National Exposition in May in Toronto.

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